Monday, February 12, 2007

Finally, a "Moment of Dad" for February

Finally, after much brain-wracking, another "moment of Dad" for you.

I think I've mentioned many times that I grew up in a house full of music. I don't remember a day where there wasn't any music, either on the radio or from a tape player or CD. I don't think I want to imagine a day without music. I know that's a reality for many folks, and it's sad.

Sometimes, you can tell a lot about a person by the music they like. Sometimes, you can't.

My dad's tastes were pretty varied. Here's a list of some of the singers/groups/musicians he liked:

The Beach Boys
Johnny Cash

Boots Randolph
Bonnie Raitt

Willie Nelson
Jerry Reed

Chet Atkins
Elvis Presley

Marcia Ball
The Fabulous Thunderbirds

In short, anything that was danceable and didn't make his ears hurt were his choices. I don't really remember him saying to my older sister, "Turn that S**T off!" Why? Because she usually liked what he liked, so the s**t stayed on. I, on the other hand, was a little bit more of a rebel and my s**t got turned down, if not off.

He really didn't like Michael Jackson at all. He could tolerate my beloved Stevie, and I introduced him to The Fabulous T-Birds (who he called "The Fabulous Thunderheads" to piss me off. It worked.) Ruthi brought in Bonnie Raitt and Marcia Ball.

But Dad LOVED The Mills Brothers

To give a really BRIEF thumbnail sketch, The Mills Brothers were an African-American singing group from Piqua, Ohio. Their fare was usually standards and/or jazz songs from the '20s, '30s, and '40s. As a matter of fact, when one of the "brothers" died, the Mills Brothers' father stepped in to take his place, and they kept on singing. I remember seeing them on TV in the mid '80s, thanks to "Evening at Pops".

He had many of their recordings, and one of the first songs I remember learning was "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter". I memorized their arrangement note for note, and that's actually one of my favorite tunes to sing with the Swing Time Big Band. Some of the cassettes Dad owned are no longer in circulation, which is a bummer.

One tune I know Dad liked was "Cab Driver"...unfortunately, he would sing it and he sounded like Huckleberry Hound being run over by a cab.

I think I get why Daddy liked the Mills Brothers so much. When they sang, they looked like they didn't have a care in the world. They LIKED what they were doing, and it showed. They didn't perform with lots of flash and glitz - they just sang, dammit. They could swing or croon, and anything in between. They had humor and sweetness.

In short, they went down like a cool glass of water, and that's what Dad liked. Here are a few YouTube clips of the Mills Brothers...

The first one is an old Max Fleischer cartoon from 1932, inspired by the Mills Brothers' rendition of "I Ain't Got Nobody" (before Louis Prima, even!).

The next one is one of their standards..."Paper Doll"

Finally, The Mills Brothers with my sister's favorite Rat Packer, Dean Martin..."Lazy River"

You know, Dad's lucky in heaven...he's got all these people singin' to him. I'm not necessarily in a rush to get there myself, but something tells me it'll be good when I get there.

Have a good 'un!